Either and neither are common English words. We use them to show choice, equality and agreement. We frequently use either in negative sentences to express agreement, and neither in affirmative ones. People learning English often find these words confusing. Native speakers do as well! In this posting I talk about using both of these words correctly. I include many example sentences. The download at the end will give you more practice using these two words.
Either to show choice and equality
Either takes the word or as a partner to show a choice between two equal possibilities. A sentence can be affirmative or negative. Use the following formula: either + noun or pronoun + or. Either…or takes a singular verb, unless one of the nouns or pronouns is plural. Here are some examples.
- Either my husband or I will pick you up at the airport. . This means that my husband will meet you, or I will meet you. Both are equal possibilities.
- I don’t like either candy or gum. This is a negative sentence. It means I don’t like candy, and I don’t like gum. They’re both equally bad.
- You can have either the black shoes or the brown shoes. . You can have the black shoes. You could also have the brown shoes. They’re both equally good. Make your choice.
- Either the Broncos or the Chiefs are going to win the football game. . One of these teams will win the game.
We can use either alone to function as an adjective and to show choice.
- You can go either way. Both roads take you where you want to go. This means that whatever road you choose will be good. They are equal.
- Which shirt do you prefer, the green or the brown? I don’t care. I’ll take either one. This means that both are equally good. You could also say, I’ll take either the green shirt or the brown one.” The meaning does not change.
Either to show agreement
We can use the word either in a negative sentence to show that we agree with someone.
- I don’t want to go to his party. I don’t either. This means that I agree with you. We don’t want to go to his party.
- I don’t like cabbage. I don’t either. This also means that I agree with you. We both don’t like cabbage.
Note–This is how you show agreement with an affirmative sentence.
- I want to go to his California. I do, too. Me, too, So do I. This means that I agree with you. We both want to travel to California.
- I like broccoli. I do, too. Me, too. So do I. This, again means that I agree with you. We both like broccoli.
Neither to show choice and equality
The word neither partners with nor to show choice and equality. Although these words imply a negative, the sentences are written in the affirmative. Use the following formula: neither + noun or pronoun + nor. Neither…nor takes a single verb unless at least one of the nouns or pronouns is plural.
- Neither Abby nor Janelle was at work today. Abby was not at work. Janelle was not at work. They were both equally absent.
- Neither the French nor the British were represented in the World Cup finals. The French were not represented. The British were nor represented. Both were equally eliminated.
- The store has neither apples nor oranges. The store is out of both apples and oranges. If we wrote the sentence is the negative, we could say,” The store doesn’t have either apples or oranges. The meaning does not change.
- Neither algebra nor economics is interesting. Algebra is not interesting, and economics is not interesting. Both are equally bad.
We can use neither alone to show choice. We use this when we don’t like any of the possibilities.
- Which dress do you like, the red or the blue one? Neither one. they’re both ugly.
This means that both dresses are equally bad.
- Who do you wish to vote for, Bob or Bill? Neither. They’re both terrible. This means that Bob and Bill are equally bad.
Neither to show agreement
We can use neither to show agreement in a negative sentence.
- I don’t want to go to his party. Me neither! this means that I agree with you. You don’t want to go to the party, and I don’t want to go to the party. This has the same meaning as, “I don’t either.”
- I don’t like broccoli. Me neither! We don’t like broccoli. It is also correct to day, “I don’t either.
Note–To show disagreement, see the following examples.
- My brother wants to go to his party. I don’t. I think it will be boring.
- Miguel doesn’t want to go to the party. I do! I think it will be fun.
- She doesn’t like broccoli. I do. I think it’s delicious!
- My family likes broccoli. I don’t. It’s too bitter for my taste.
You now know that either and neither can be used to show choice, equality and agreement. You can use either with both an affirmative or a negative sentence. It implies the affirmative, however. This means that both possibilities are acceptable. Neither is usually used with an affirmative sentence, but it implies a negative. It means that both possibilities are unacceptable. Both are used with negative sentences to show agreement. To show choice, either partners with or, and neither with nor. Both take a singular verb unless at least one of the nouns or pronouns is plural. The download will give you more practice using these two words.
Idioms of the day
- To miss the boat —This means to fail to take advantage of an opportunity, or to not understand something. I didn’t apply for a promotion because I thought I wasn’t qualified. Now my best friend got the promotion and is making lots of money. I really missed the boat!
- To be in the same boat –This means to be in a similar situation. I lost my job. Then I found out that my cousin lost his, too. I guess we’re in the same boat.